The Church Commissioners have taken a keen interest in the development of metal marking undertaken by the Institute of Minerals, Mining and Metals—IOM3. Marking systems are under development that can be used to mark new and existing roofs with a clear mark of ownership. We have been working to achieve that with IOM3 and the insurance industry.
Churches, war memorials and monuments throughout the north-east have been affected by this despicable crime. Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to get behind the private Member’s Bill that is to be debated in the House shortly, and ensure that the churches themselves do all that they can to mark their property?
My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Richard Ottaway) has introduced an excellent Bill, and we hope that it will get a good hearing tomorrow and make progress. Of course the churches have a responsibility to do everything they can to protect their own metal from theft. They do this by using SmartWater, CCTV cameras and other examples of the latest technology. We are all seeking to crack this despicable crime, but at the end of the day we have to make the scrap metal business a cashless business involving only business-to-business transactions, to prevent people from ripping lead off roofs and taking it round to the scrap metal market the next day and getting cash for it.
My hon. Friend mentioned SmartWater, which is a tried and trusted method not only of bringing criminals to justice but of deterring them from committing crimes in the first place. Will he update the House on how many churches have SmartWater technology on their premises, and will he ensure that as many as possible are covered by it in the future?